BILOXI, Miss. – There are new reports that oil has come ashore on Mississippi beaches now too.
It’s the first time that Mississippi has had a major landfall of oil on any of its beaches. Until now, the state had dodged the bullet that has hit Alabama and Florida.
We are heading there now to talk to city managers and residents who, from what we understand at the outset, are quite angry. One city official in Biloxi told me that BP and the unified command had two months to anticipate the arrival of oil in Mississippi and yet they seem to have been unprepared.
He claims that there were no skimmer boats there and very little boom put out – so now there is oil on Mississippi beaches.
Oil hitting this region’s beaches is becoming a recurrent problem that is casting a dark shadow over a usually happy time of year here: summer vacation.
On Sunday, just west of Gulf Shores, Ala., we met Jamie and Jennifer Bible and their family. They had come from Tuscaloosa, to visit their favorite vacation spot. They came there expecting to sit by the water, Jennifer’s favorite pastime, only to find a big dark pool of oil sitting in their favorite spot.
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So now they are going to be spending their vacation at the pool and they are not going to let their kids near the water. And Jennifer will not be able to enjoy the ocean because not only is there oil coming in on the beach, but there is oil coming in with the surf. We could see it. There were skimmer boats offshore trying to stop the oil from coming in, but so much was getting past them that it was fouling the shore.
Every day now, oil seems to hit a beach somewhere in either Florida, Alabama or now Mississippi – but it’s hard to predict where the oil will hit next. It’s all the function of wind and current and tide.
The unpredictability is giving city managers fits because they can’t get ahead of the oil. As soon as they clean it up, more comes in, maybe in a different part of the beach then the area they just were working on. It is extremely frustrating for the workers who are out working in the high humidity during the day trying to get ahead of the oil. It is an uphill battle.
Once the oil hits the beach, it’s a big problem on many different levels.
First of all, economically, oil hitting the beach is a death knell for the tourist trade. Once tourists see that oil is on the beaches, they are very reluctant to go there. Condo managers, rental managers, hotel owners, restaurant owners all say that they are being hurt very badly by oil on their beaches.
Physically, it’s tough to get rid of, too. If they don’t get to it right away, new sand brought in by the tide will pile up on top of the oil and then they have to dig below the sand to get to it. If they don’t do that, the oil can sit there, fester and bubble up over time. So it’s a real problem. It leads to staining, it fouls the beach, tourists don’t like it, residents don’t like it and everybody feels it’s inevitable that a lot more will keep coming ashore.
And then there is the impact on wildlife. Everyday there are reports of birds being fouled. We see dolphins swimming out there in the water right near the oil patches. We see large schools of fish very close to shore, in amongst the oil.
So the worry here, in this area famous for its with crystal clear water, pristine beaches and abundant wildlife is that all of that is going to be impacted, in addition to the economic impact.
For tourists who are returning to places they have loved for years and suddenly see oil on their beaches – it’s a real shock. People have told us that they have cried.
Not only is their vacation ruined, but their favorite place is ruined. They feel sorry for the animals and they feel sorry for the people who live here.
It’s a real shock that unfortunately is being suffered by more and more tourists when they get here and see oil on the beaches.